On Saturday night in front of a packed Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, the Les Miles Story added another chapter - and another ultra-dramatic one, at that.
Call Miles and his football team anything you want, just make sure to fit in the words perfect.
Jarrett Lee’s three-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Toliver on a fade route in the left corner of the endzone was the final blow, but it wasn’t the final-minute call that stunned the No. 14 Gators most.
Faced with a 53-yard field goal for the tie, Miles sent out kicker Josh Jasper. When the play clock winded down too quickly for the Tigers, they burned their final timeout.
Back in the huddle, LSU called a new play.
Instead of settling for the tie, the much-maligned Miles wanted the win.
With 35 seconds left in the game, Miles pulled “Tiger” out of his playbook for the first time since 2007 when LSU used the call to outwit Steve Spurrier and his South Carolina Gamecocks.
The play set up like a field goal, but the outcome was a designed over-the-head flip from punter/holder Derek Helton to kicker Josh Jasper. If it worked out to perfection, Jasper would catch the ball on the run, evade the Gators defense - likely intent on coming up with a block - and dash to the pylon in the corner of the endzone.
“We thought it was a chance for a score,” Miles said.
A member of the National Championship team that pulled off the play, Jasper wasn’t shocked when he heard that his headman had no intention of putting the lengthy kick on his leg.
“We (Miles) called the timeout, and I had a feeling they were going to try something besides kicking,” said Jasper, who was 2-for-2 with a long of 45 yards up to that point. “It was just a great call.”
The call might have been perfect, but the toss wasn’t.
Helton’s right-handed flip was on line (the officials confirmed that much on the booth review), but instead of landing in Jasper’s hands the ball took a bounce – right into the breadbasket of the sprinting LSU kicker.
“It wasn’t the greatest of pitches, but I was able to make a play on it and pick up the first down,” Jasper said.
Asked about the fake after the game, Florida head coach Urban Meyer summed up the moment in furious-coach fashion.
“No comment,” he said – twice.
Down three points with a moving clock, the Tigers weren’t out of hot water just yet. In fact, this is often when the water got hottest for Miles’ coached teams.
With a new set of downs and 29 seconds on the clock, Miles - wait for it – put on a clock-management clinic.
In the game to navigate the team through their two-minute drill, Jarrett Lee hit Terrance Toliver in stride for a 28-yard gain that put the ball three yards from the goalline with 15 seconds left. Lee hurried the team to the line of scrimmage and spiked the ball to stop the clock, something Jefferson couldn’t get done as time ticked away on LSU last week.
Without a timeout, offensive coordinator Gary Crowton went back to his tallest - and most experienced - receiver: the 6-foot-5 Toliver. Lee threw a second-down fade in Toliver’s direction, but cornerback Jeremy Brown wasn’t having any of it.
Just as he had in the final minutes of the Ole Miss game last fall, Crowton went to the Toliver fade for a second straight time.
Then, the Tigers didn’t convert.
This time, Lee and Toliver were right on the money.
With six seconds to play, LSU had taken a 33-29 lead – and for a moment, or maybe longer, the near-fallout against the Volunteers was forgotten.
“We pulled it out tonight,” Toliver said. “Last week and this week, we won both games. Florida had the game-winning drive just like Tennessee did, but we did the same thing as we did last week and came out with the win.”
When Brantley’s final pass was broken up, a once-jubilant crowd of 90,721 was silenced for a final time.
“Any time you have a victory in The Swamp, it’s an achievement,” Miles said. “There was no question in my mind that this football team was going to go out and play like this.
“I felt like we might have been the better team.”
By night’s end, the stat sheet supported his cause.
The Tigers finished with 385 total yards to the Gators’ 243, highlighted by a season-high 224 yards through the air. Though a Jeff Demps-less Florida offense was held to 83 yards on the ground, the emergence of Andre Debose in the return game kept the home team alive late.
Debose, a one-time LSU lean during high school, finished with 154 yards on five returns, a showing capped off with an 88-yard touchdown return that brought the Gators back within six points with 14:06 left in the game.
The teams traded punts on three series before Florida struck their final blow: a 10-play, 80-yard drive that culminated with a five-yard touchdown rush from Mike Gillislee. The two-point conversion that followed was good, giving Florida a 29-26 lead with 3:21 left on the clock.
The Tigers took all but six of those 201 seconds to come up an answer, a win that moves LSU to 6-0 on the year and 4-0 in the Southeastern Conference.
“I know they’ve beaten us the past two years, but we finally, finally came out on top,” Jefferson said.
On a day where Alabama dropped their first game in two seasons, staying perfect in the Western Division never seemed more important.